146. Feeling addicted to your phone? Understanding your phone habit + worksheets

I get messages from moms, and coach women who feel like they are addicted to their phones.

They share how it pulls them out of their presence with their kids and their lives.

It sucks up their time and they feel like they never have enough time.

It draws in their attention and they are scrolling social media that does NOT make them feel any better about themselves. 

It seems that our phone usage isn’t getting us what we want.

  • I want to unpack this relationship we have formed with our phones, by letting it be on autopilot.  
  • Make sure to get the worksheets that help you assess your relationship to your phone and better understand the exact impact it is having on you and your life. 

The goal with all of this is not to villainize our phones (I like my phone!), and not to bring more judgment and shame onto ourselves (lasting positive change does not happen from a place of negative judgment) – the goal with this is AWARENESS – what is going on and is it working?


In this episode you will hear:

  • the good things about phones and technology
  • the term ‘phone addiction’ 
  • how are phone habits developed
  • the surprising find about habit-reward and how we use our phones
  • the negative impacts we might have from our phone habits
    • time, energy, relationships, work, attention, distractions, physical impacts, coping mechanism, mental health, sleep
  • the worksheets to help you understand how you are using your phone and how it is impacting you. We need to be aware of the costs before we choose to give up the benefit in some way. 



Make sure to send in your QUESTIONS/TOPICS for an upcoming Q+A Episode. You can send them to me through Instagram, or share in the Facebook group. 



The study on dopamine, rewards and phones

Distracted phone users don’t see the gorilla

Text neck, how staring at your phone impacts your body




Hey friends at Shawna your nerdy girlfriend and life coach from simple on purpose.ca Welcome to the Simple on Purpose Podcast, episode 146 Your relationship with your phone on autopilot.

And I know we hear a lot of negativity around the impacts of phones on us as a society on us in our daily lives. But before we kind of talk about that and unpack that, I want to talk about the good things because I think they really are good things. I am someone who likes my phone, I like to use it. I like the technology.

I got my first smartphone when I was like 27 or 28. So it’s like 2009/ 2010. Before that it was the Flip Phone era in my life, there was a bit of texting, definitely not photos, surely no internet connection. And you know, back when I did get my phone, that there was this big catchy saying out there. There’s an app for that. So everything was really about using these different types of apps for productivity and games. And you know, it was just really a place to check emails and play some games for the most part, I think.

But that quickly advanced and by the time I was having babies, I was using my phone often I would scroll Pinterest a lot. While I was up at night nursing, I would watch some Netflix Well, I was nursing or pumping things like that.

So as my babies were growing, so was my phone usage. And as they moved a little bit into toddlerhood, Instagram became a really important part of my daily life. It truly felt like a community. It was my community. I followed other moms on their in their day, we would check in with each other. There was no scheduled posts, no algorithms messing your feed, no stories just in the moment sharing.

So I’m not going to shame another mum who’s using her phone because to me it it has been a place where I found community I found entertainment, I found information, I found answers to my questions. And I think that this is a really useful tool in our lives.

It’s also presented struggles and hurdles for me. And I know that I need to be intentional with it, that I don’t need to be on it all the time that my kids are watching. And they are 10, nine and seven, and they want phones for themselves. They don’t have them, but they are watching how we use our phones.

So I asked in the Facebook community group, what kind of topics you’d like to hear about in the coming podcasts. And this topic, one your relationship to your phone. And it’s something I get maybe the occasional note on like how do I be more mindful? What about phone addiction how to be present, because for lots of mums, we feel that that strain that it’s pulling us out of presence with our kids.

And so as I was kind of looking at the neuroscience around phone usage, I came across the term phone addiction, we’ve heard it, but it just struck me it hit me that this term even exists, like how, how insane is that? It exists, because there’s studies out there that show that it is a form of behavioral addiction. And you know, it’s not in the DSM that guide that many doctors use to diagnose mental health conditions. But there’s definite recommendations to put it in there. And there’s definite criteria that people are outlining, on what constitutes a phone addiction.

And no matter what I think at the end of the day, a lot of us just wouldn’t contest with this notion that it can feel addictive. Because we know we know that if if our phone isn’t around us, it’s around us all the time within like an arm’s length. If you wherever you’re sitting right now, I bet if you sweep your arm around you, in that radius, you’ll be able to reach your phone. If it’s in another room, if you forget it in the house and you go somewhere. There’s, there’s a real term for the anxiety that you feel.

we spend more time on it, then we want to, I think that’s a really big thing we need to pay attention to. We’re spending more time on it than we want. We get distracted by it. It’s success in and for maybe some of you, you don’t feel like it’s this extreme. Maybe some of you do, no matter where you are on the scale. I just want to spend a few minutes talking about the realities of phone usage.

Because as much as we love our phones, we also need to hold space for what is not working. So how did we get here? How did we get to become people who were using your phones? More than we want to?

The answer to that question, as with most habits that we don’t like is dopamine. Dopamine is that great motivator, the neurochemical that just feels like you’re wrapping your brain in a warm blanket fresh out of the dryer while your mom makes you grilled cheese like it makes us feel good.

And you’ve heard it before. Here. I’ve mentioned it before we get dopamine when we feel like we’ve secured our needs we’ve achieved something. It’s that little gold star on our sticker chart and our brain remembers it remembers what we get dopamine from, and it will offer us urges to seek it out again and again and again. And that cue habit reward loop becomes stronger and more automatic. So over time, it becomes the default reaction that we don’t even think about. It’s just running in the background.

So how do our phones actually give us dopamine? Well, what makes us feel great on our phones, likes, follows comments, interactions, you know, maybe even a negative interaction still feels like some kind of exciting engagement, being in the know, seeing something funny or informative, being entertained. And like I’ve said, in other episodes, there’s probably more than just dopamine that we’re getting from this. And you can see how apps are designed to spoon feed this to us and a never ending scroll.

I’ve been watching the documentary, a social dilemma. And they are unpacking how apps are designed to do this. And that’s just a really fascinating documentary if you get a chance to watch it.

When I was reading about the neuroscience of dopamine and phone addiction, there’s a common analogy used, and it’s pulling a lever on a slot machine. Every time we pick up our phone, it’s like pulling that lever down on the slot machine, what is going to pop up, what will I win. And the interesting thing is that the more sporadic that reward, the more and more we respond, the more we play the slots maybe this time, maybe this time, and we do get these sporadic rewards and we keep playing.

And if we think about it, the cost to play is arguably low. When we don’t have this negative outcome accumulating, that will become a deterrent for us like actual gambling where we’re losing money and losing money, that may become a deterrent for some people. But I think if we’re considering how phones affect our lives, there is a negative outcome accumulating, I’m going to put a link to the article that I referenced here in the show notes.

But at the end of the day, because we’re getting that dopamine, this habit is set on autopilot. And unless we challenge our habits, we’re probably never going to change them.

So let’s talk about those negative outcomes that we might be experiencing from phone usage.

The first one is time and I hear this so often. It’s taking up my time. And if you look at the screen time stats on your phone, if you have an iPhone, they’re in there, I think there’s other phones, you can get an app for that. Look at how much time you’re spending each day, how many hours do you spend on your phone each day. And consider of all the things you’re doing in your day, have all of the other things that take up your time and adding in the screen time.

No wonder you feel like you don’t have enough time. Right? Imagine how much time you could spend doing the things you want to be doing. If your screen time was a little less.

Another impact is our attention because these phones are a distraction. And you’ve probably seen those studies that have come out over the years where someone is like out in a park on their phone. And there’s something crazy happening in the background like a gorilla attacking a clown or something. And the person on the phone just completely oblivious.

We know it absorbs us. It keeps us from engaging in life from looking up and looking around. And sometimes looking in people’s eyeballs. It can sometimes become something that causes relationship struggles. A lot of the moms who messaged me say I’m not being present with my kids, I’m just being sucked in on my phone. But maybe it’s also with your partner, maybe your phone has become more exciting than intimacy or connection with your partner. Or maybe it’s a problem with your co workers or maybe even if you’re out with your friends. You notice all of you are on your phones when you’re hanging out together.

It impacts our emotional energy. We get impatient when we’re interrupted on the phone. We feel anxious when we’re waiting for responses. We are just tied constantly to the notifications and the dings. Gotta check them gotta check them.

Did that make you want to reach for your phone? I know if I’ve heard someone’s phone vibrate in a podcast episode, I think Oh, is that my phone? I should check it.

Another impact it has on us is it develops in intolerance and in patients an intolerance to boredom and waiting in if you are sitting in a waiting room, how many people are on their phone if you’re waiting in line. And you know what, I don’t want to shame anyone. Because I know as moms sometimes that’s the only like, quiet moment we get when we’re waiting in line at the grocery store. We’re going to check something we’re going to message people so I don’t want to shame anyone for their phone usage. But I do want you to just start paying attention to what’s motivating you and do you like it.

Another impact it has that I don’t think we talked about enough. Is it the impact on our body. We’ve heard of text neck where we’re developing this kind of hunchback situation. Our eyes are becoming strained. I think we’re getting the claw they make phones bigger and bigger and we have to like wrap our hands

There’s your mental health. And we all know that phone usage and social media usage is linked to depression. Definitely sleep disturbances if you have your phone in your room through the night.

And as a life coach and someone who helps people use their phones in more intentional ways, I know that we use it as a coping mechanism. We use the phone, we turn to the phone when we want to just feel better. This is called a buffer. It’s something that isn’t helping make our lives better, that we do to distract or numb or zone out or just feel better.

Now I know we’ve covered a lot of negatives. And I don’t know how this makes you feel when we talk about this, but I just want to let you sit in this. I want you to just sit in this this awareness, this acknowledgement that maybe there’s some things that are not so great about my relationship with my phone, because when we do this, then we get to start to decide what’s happening now. And what do I want to be happening? What do we what changes do we want to make? What do we want more of and what do we want less of

in that social dilemma documentary, they were explaining how we want to think of our phones as a tool, there’s something that we go to, there’s something that we can make use of. But the way that social media apps are designed, are designed to keep us on the app to keep spending time to keep us clicking, to keep us viewing ads, because the more ads we view, the more money they make. So that’s how they monetize. But they’re using all of the tricks they can think of, to keep us on the screen to keep us on the app to keep us engaged. And this switch has happened, where we are the tool, where we are the ones being used, where we are constantly responding to the phone, instead of that posture we have where our phones just there for us when we need it. And that’s kind of a fascinating thing to consider the stance we have towards our phone.

And that is my whole goal for you in this whole conversation, that you are going to determine the ways that you want to be the one calling the shots that you want to be in control of your relationship to the phone, rather than feeling like it’s in control of you.

And that’s what we’re going to talk about on an upcoming episode. being intentional with your phone. I’m also going to have at least one q&a episode. So make sure you’re sending in your questions into the Facebook group or message me on Instagram, and I can answer them in an upcoming episode.

But I want to leave you with something actionable to take into your week, I have a free printable worksheet. That’s all around getting more awareness on your relationship to your phone. And getting a little bit honest with yourself about how it’s impacting you. This is going to help you know what changes you want to be making.

And it also is going to help give you the motivation give you the why on why these changes are important to you. Because if they don’t feel important to you, if the cost doesn’t seem to outweigh the benefits, then you’re probably not going to make the changes that you know kind of in the back of your mind you want to make.

So stop by the show notes and get that free printable. If you can’t find the show notes, head on over to simple on purpose.ca. Click listen and find the episode there.

And let’s do a simple pleasure I I often forget. So let’s do and today I’m going to share something that is kind of dorky. But I hope that maybe if I tell you about it, maybe you’ll start to notice it to maybe it will become a simple pleasure for you.

So you’ve heard me say that I have a hobby of staring out the window at trees, I sit in my front window, and I stare out trees and I have this intimate knowledge of all the trees on my street and how they change color as the seasons change and the sun moves around. When we lived in northern BC for a while we had a piece of property and I would notice that while I was in the house, the light seemed different depending on the season. And what I was paying attention to was all the trees around us depending on where the sunlight was, and it was shining through these trees, we would get kind of a different glow in the house different yellows and different greens and I kind of really started paying attention to this really cool thing that happens as the light shines through trees.

So now where I live, it’s coming on winter because I’m in Canada and all of the pine trees around me they’re frosty in the mornings. And what’s happening is all of the pine needles at the ends of the branches are coated in a frost and the sun’s low so it’s shining and it’s hitting these trees and it just shines these tree branches so they look like little white puffballs now, if you start noticing this, you might want to take a photo, but that’s like taking a photo of a sunset. It just doesn’t get it it just doesn’t capture it. You also might want to try my tactic of pointing out to your children and trying to get them to admire it with you. I mean, you can try but their brains are still kind of mushy, so they don’t appreciate this. They just think it’s lame. They don’t even know.

I was really interested to learn like today that there is a Japanese term For this, of course, from the culture that brings us forest bathing, they have a name for this for the way that light shines through trees. And the Japanese term for this is komorebi. And I think that is just such a little beautiful, simple thing, a pleasure you can always enjoy, I hope you start to notice the way the light shines through trees. It’s a simple pleasure.

Alright, friends, I hope you stopped by the shownotes, grab those worksheets for yourself, if that’s something you’re interested in, I send them to my sister the other week, and she did them and she’s like, they are so good. But then I was sad. But then I got up and put my phone down and did something. So it seems like when you become more aware of what’s going on for you, you have this kind of more natural motivation to do something about it. And of course, the goal in those sheets is not for you to judge yourself or shame yourself. That’s not what we’re here for. We’re here for awareness. What is happening, is it working? Then we know what we want to be changing, and that’s going to be the upcoming episode. Alright friends, have a great week.

Transcribed by https://otter.ai

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